Changing the Guard is one of the oldest traditions and one of the most recognisable in connection to Buckingham Palace. It dates back to 1660. The correct name for this ceremony is the Guard Mounting.

Changing the Guards ceremony in Buckingham Palace

Changing of queen’s guards is one of the most popular attractions in London. It’s a longstanding tradition of the old guard changing with the new. 

Changing the guard location

The action of the ceremony takes place between three important spots. These are the residences located in central London only a few minutes away from each other: the Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and Wellington barracks. Please see the detailed map below.

Changing the Guards dates

The best time to see Changing the Guard ceremony y is summer. During the summer months this ceremony is scheduled everyday. In winter days it is scheduled on alternate days (usually on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays)

But there might be cancelations due to bad weather or other major events. So it’s always a good idea to check the official website before going there. You can check the dates and times on the official website by clicking on the link below.

https://www.householddivision.org.uk/changing-the-guard-calendar

Changing the Guard times

The ceremony begins around 10:30 o’clock at St.Jame’s Palace and Wellington Barracks. And around 11:00 o’clock at the Buckingham Palace.

But if you want to have a good spot to watch the ceremony you’ll need to get there much earlier. We suggest getting tot he Buckingham Palace not later that 09:30 – 10:00 am. As it is a very popular tourist attraction thousands of people come to watch this colourful ceremony everyday.

Detailed map of the Changing the Guard ceremony

Before the ceremony (10:45-11:00 am)

1. Old Guards leave St.James’s Palace at around 10:45 am. Some Old Guards (continent) remain at the St.Jame’s Palace, until they are replaced.
2. The Band and the New Guards leave Wellington Baracks at around 10:55 am

After the ceremony (11:10 – 11:45am)

3. Part of the New Guards (responsible for guarding St James’s Palace) leave Buckingham Palace
4. The continent (remaining Old Guard) of St.James’s Palace march to Buckingham Palace
5. Old Guards leave Buckingham Palace preceded by the Band at around 11:35
6. The New guards divide into two detachments. St James’s Palace detachment leaves Buckingham Palace. The other detachment stays at the Palace.

At any time two groups of soldiers (detachments) are at duty.  One is at Buckingham Palace and the other one at St James’s Palace. They come from the same regiment (unit of an army).

The best location to see changing the guard ceremony

The best location to see the ceremony is at the front gates, preferably somewhere close to central gates of the Buckingham Palace. It offers the best view on the Old and New Guards during the ceremony.

On the either side of the gates you will have a gorgeous view of the Buckingham Palace. You will still see the whole ceremony, although the guards will be a bit far off from you. There is also a very big chance that they’ll be standing with their backs turned to you. As they usually face the middle of the court.

The Mall and the Queen Victoria Memorial (fountain). This location offers a great view on the guards marching as they pass you on their way to and from Buckingham Palace. Some of the best pictures of the Band and the guards marching can be taken from these locations.

Marching guards in London

Yo will also see the Household Cavalry pass Buckingham Palace as hey ride past you.

London horse guards parade
Horde guards parade, London, UK

Ceremony at the Buckingham Palace

The soldiers who are finishing their shift (referred to as the Old Guard) gather at the front court at Buckingham Palace. Soldiers who have been on their shift at St James’s Palace also march toward the Buckingham Palace. They will be waiting there for the New Guard (the regiment from the new shift) to arrive from Wellington barracks.

soldiers who have finished their shift are waiting for the new soldiers to arrive

When the New Guard arrives they march in a slow march together with the Old Guard into position. The two captains march and meet in the middle of the court. They touch left hands symbolically handing over the keys of Buckingham Palace. By this the responsibility of guarding the palace is symbolically handed over to the New Guards.

The ceremony is accompanied by military band. They usually play traditional music, military marches as well as popular modern music and songs from films.

Marching band in winter during the changing of guards ceremony in London

Interesting Facts

  • Guard Mounting is carried out by the 5 regiments of the foot guards (Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish, and Welsh Guards). You can tell them apart by some variations in their uniforms (button spacings, collar badges, color of plums in their bearskin caps).
  • The soldiers on the parade are working soldiers, they are operational troops and not just ceremony figures, as you might think.
  • The bearskin hat is one of the most expensive element of the uniform. It is made from fur of Canadian black bear. It is about 45 centimetres (18 inches) tall and weights about 0,7 kilos (1.5 pounds).
  • The guards have two types of uniforms. In summer you can see the guards wearing their traditional red uniforms as they march towards the Buckingham Palace. In winter they wear grey coats, to keep them warm.
  • Red as a uniform color was chosen for several reasons. Red dye was not that expensive to make, compared to other colours. Also red colour is difficult to see, especially at the distance as it blends into one. Thus it was difficult to count how many British soldiers were on a field.